Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Boarding Your Pet

Pet Column for the week of June 30, 1997

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Theresa A. Fuess, Ph.D.
Information Specialist

It's time for the obligatory pilgrimage to Great Aunt Annie's. Of course, Patches can come
along, she says. Patches is welcome to stay in a cage on the back porch, where it is 90
degrees in the shade. Never mind that Patches usually sleeps in my bed on my softest down
pillow. Great Aunt Annie is certain Patches will do fine on the back porch. I considered it,
then decided to ask Dr. Linda Berent, veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of
Veterinary Medicine at Urbana, for advice on selecting a boarding kennel.

"Most kennel owners love animals," she says. "That's why they are in the business. They
also care about their reputation." To find one you are comfortable leaving your pet with, Dr.
Berent advises asking your friends and veterinarian for recommendations. Call and visit
those recommended and ask a few questions.

In Illinois, kennels are licensed by the state department of agriculture and are inspected four
times each year. Look for this license on the premises. The state law requires boarding
kennels to have proof of rabies and distemper vaccinations for each pet guest. Be sure you
are asked for this. If you are not, then most likely other guests are not either and your pet
may be exposed to these diseases. In addition, some kennels also require vaccinations for
canine cough, also known as kennel cough.

Visit kennels you are considering and ask to see the area where your pet will stay.
However, don't expect it to be immaculate. It may smell of urine and feces, but they should
be fresh urine and feces if it is cleaned every day. Look for secure gates on runs and a
security fence around the premises to prevent escape of loose animals. Each animal's living
area should be cleaned and disinfected every day, which means runs should be made of
concrete. Gravel and grass kennels are almost impossible to disinfect. If your pet will be
kept in a crate instead of a run, ask how often it will get out and whether it will get exercise.
If your pet is stressed by the presence of other species, ask if there are separate areas for
dogs and cats.

You should also ask about provisions for special needs and unforeseen mishaps. Are
infectious pet guests quarantined from healthy ones? If your pet falls ill, will your veterinarian
or their veterinarian be called? Are there evacuation plans in case of fire? Will they feed
special diets and give medications and injections? Is there an exercise and play time? Are
there bathing and grooming services? Are there additional charges for these services? To
prevent pet theft, ask what identification will be asked of the person who will pick up your

Your pet's stay will be more comfortable and uneventful if you provide information about
your pet's habits. If your pet is an escape artist and the kennel owners know this, they can
take extra measures to prevent escape. Tell the owners if your pet will urinate only in the
grass. Let them know if you pet is old and arthritic and requires a special bed or exercise. If
your pet needs a specific diet and medications, be sure to leave a sufficient quantity as well
as thorough instructions. It is important for kennel owners to know if you pet will eat toys or
bedding, if it hates men, or if it will lunge at a handler or snap when its ears or feet are

Once you have selected the facility that best suits your pet, call well in advance for
reservations. Reputable kennels often fill up three to four weeks in advance. Allow yourself
plenty of time to fulfill the vaccination requirements. Find out before you leave what times of
the day you can pick up your pet upon your return.

"Your pet will tell you how it went," says Dr. Berent. "A happy pet was well treated. If it
pulls at the lead to get to the kennel on the second visit, then you know you've got the right